Chapter 17. Ms. Puzzled
Once she fluttered her eyes open in a Friday morning, in her old bedroom. The lemon chiffon yellow paint made the room brighter than it already is. Adding the fact that her mother changed the curtains to white.
Closing her eyes again, his face pops out. She knew she misses her boyfriend terribly. The word itself felt foreigner to her, but hell she has a boyfriend. A boyfriend name Lucas! She could smell his clean and crisp masculine musk on his hoodie that she wore to sleep. He did not have any idea, that she slip it secretly inside her bag in the morning after establishing their relationship status.
It’s forty-eight hours since she last saw him. Groaning as she stretches her limbs, she remembered that she forgot to call or text him last night.
She was too worked up from the staff meeting prior and traveling down to her hometown. Rosing up from her bed, opening her eyes as she picked out her phone from the bedside table. Upon unlocking it, five messages including his morning and two missed calls.
Disappointed at herself for not answering his calls but she knew he would understand. Beaming, she sent a quick reply and padded to her bathroom. Pausing before fully stepping inside, she thought of her reply.
‘Morning. Missed your call, I overslept. What’s up?’
“That was rather cold,” she said to herself, cringing while at it. Retracting her steps, picking up her phone and jumps inside her bathroom. Placing the phone beside her sink that made of marble, she gathered her locks and tie it in a ponytail. Turning on the warm water, splashing water on her face, applying a decent amount of mild facial wash.
Halfway into rinsing off the foamy substance on her face. Her phone rang that made her jump out, she immediately pulled out the hanging white hand towel beside the mirror and wipe off the water of her face.
Fished up her phone with her slippery hands, swiping left. A huge grin spread out across her face as she places her phone beside her left ear.
“Hi!” She greeted, sounded chirpy and enthusiastic. Very unlike her in a mundane morning. She heard his man chuckle. “Hi, love- Ms. Montréal. Did you just wake up?”
She could picture out his smile as he asks her. Beaming, she rolls her eyes heavenward as if Lucas is in front of her, “Duuh.”
Thorin pulled out her phone away from her ears and clicked the video call button. She anxiously waits for Lucas to return the video call. She knew he’s at work at this hour, and no one could waver his focus on work. But his boss is not in the office right now, his boss is right here. And his boss happened to be his girlfriend.
She was grinning too much as Lucas face popped in the screen. She mentally checking herself, restraining her overflowing of mixed emotions, “Hi. Again!”
Lucas smirk as he stares into the camera of his phone. He looked smart and adorable. Wearing a white collared shirt and then a navy sweater over it- with the collar sticking out! His sexy library vibe made her carnal desire wild.
“Ms. Montréal, have you eaten breakfast?”
Nibbling her lower lip, she shakes her head side by side. She’ll be damned. She never the type to miss a certain someone, but looking at him now. She wanted to run and jump and hug him tightly as much as she can. Sighing, she smiles at the man on the screen who made her happy, with a single smile from his face.
Lucas brows furrowed as he leaned in the camera closer, “Hey, that hoodie looked familiar.”
Thorin couldn’t help but laugh, “Does it?”
Lucas shrugged, “I have the exact design. Anyway, please eat your breakfast now baby--”
Troy’s cringing face popped out from nowhere on the screen, “Dude! Baby?!”
Simultaneously, Thorin and Lucas groaned at their uninvited guest. Thorin wanted to claw out her brother’s face for ruining a perfect morning. Taking a mental note on how to strangle her brother once she sees him this Sunday.
“That’s no baby,” Troy added, pointing out his index fingers at her and facing Lucas to make his point clearer. “Why are you even there, Troy?”
Troy plucked out the phone from Luca’s grip as the call got blurred out and unstable.
Once set, Troy was now on in front of the camera. Thorin looked for his boyfriend, who obediently sat quietly behind Troy with his now placid face. “I needed to talk to him with something,”
Thorin was somewhat glad that the two men in her life, grew closer day by day. “ You two seem close. About what?”
“Don’t be jealous!” Troy snickered while Thorin furrowed her brows. Troy notice his sister’s impatience, he cleared his throat and answered her question, “About something.”
“Stupid.” Giving her brother a tight-lipped smile, “Can you please give the phone back to him now?”
“Okay. Since you said please. A miracle.”
The screen from Lucas’s phone got wobbly until it stops and shone his face. Her mood immediately shifted, Lucas automatically beamed back at her, “Eat your breakfast first before doing anything okay? I’ll send some emails from the weekly reports later.”
“Woah,” she said grinning. He just actually do what she instructed him before leaving the office in his hands. “Smooth switch from my boyfriend to the assistant.”
“Uh-huh, love,” fixing his eyeglasses on his nose, “I can’t talk any longer, I have to work. Call you later?”
“What? Why?” Gaping at her boyfriend who happens to be a dedicated employee of their company. Stomping her foot like a child, “You don’t have your boss right now!”
“The second boss, actually. He’s right behind me.” Lucas shrugged as Troy said something inaudibly ridiculous. With a final wave, he smiles, “Bye, love.”
Fresh from a cold water bath, laptop in hand Thorin padded to the left from the grand staircase into a bluestone hallway. She entered a vaulted cedar ceilinged kitchen appointed with stainless steel appliances -- a five-star gas stove, Asko dishwasher, subzero refrigerator, a five-star warming drawer.
The extensive custom wood cabinets and granite counters is always a scene stealer in their kitchen. Thorin’s favorite part of the kitchen was always the wall of glass line at the front side of the kitchen to enjoy the view.
If she wishes to exit out through one of the French doors along the side of French windows that side to sit on the patio and perhaps enjoy her meal al fresco. However, she can’t now, due to the cold weather.
The view of the panoramic view of undisturbed wilderness never bored her, whenever she’s alone in this massive house when she was in high school. She was always by herself in this house during her formative years, her brothers out in college, their parents out in the city to manage their company.
She didn’t mind though, it’s not like her parents forgot she excited. They were nurturing and often got home just to see and to check on her. She was thankful for that or else she would be in the wrong path at the moment. Though she hated the fact that they were controlling. But she knows how to manage and escape the trap.
Thorin places her laptop on the granite counter, and trudge to the refrigerator and pulled out a box of cereal and a half-empty gallon of milk. Placing her breakfast on the counter, she tiptoes and open the cupboard and pulled out a bowl and spoon.
Checking if the materials she needed is complete, she walks back and settled herself on the stool. As she waits for her laptop to load open, she pours the chocolaty cereal and milk on the bowl.
“So, you had yourself a boyfriend already?” Her spoon freezes mid-air as she finally saw her mother in the flesh after months of subtle hiding. Her shrill voice pierced and echoed throughout the room. “No wonder, you’ve never visited. Since you’re busy and all that,” her mother added.
Taking a few spoonfuls as Thorin observes her mother’s tall and slim figure open the cupboard, drinking a glass in hand she opens the fridge and pulled out a box of orange juice.
Swallowing the remaining food from her mouth, Thorin smiled at her mother, “Yes, I have a boyfriend. At my age? Of course, I have, Mom!”
Her mother mirrored her as she stood across her. Thorin’s mother, Elle, aged so well and can be often mistaken that she’s still in her late 40′s. Though her streaks of gray in her locks and wrinkles around her eyes are highly noticeable. Elle is actually turning sixty-three this Sunday. Thorin wondered if she would look like exactly her mom when she’d turn sixty-three. After all, many would point out that the share the same features, however, her aristocratic nose made her more intimidating and stood out.
Thorin glances down at her laptop screen and checks her emails. Lucas being true to his words, he emailed what she needed to check on.
“Glad you actually thought of having a commitment with someone,” the statement actually made Thorin paused and look up at her mother.
“What?” Her mother shrugs as she lifts her glass and took a sip from it. Frowning at her mother, “What’s that suppose to mean, mom?”
“Nothing. Is just that, it’s weird that you have a relationship and is answering my questions honestly about it,” her mother thoughtfully said as she pulled a stool and sit on it.
“I am?” Thorin prompt, as she mentally evaluates herself. Yes, she never answers questions about her past relationships. She knew it beforehand that it’s temporary and not serious. So, why talk about it like it’s going to last for a long time? “So I presume it’s serious?”
Thorin was taken aback by her question all of a sudden. Of course, they are serious. They are adults and at their prime age, they should think of certain things seriously.
“We’ve only been dating for almost a month, mom,” Thorin curtly said as she looks back at the screen and pretends to read a document. “My question is answerable by yes or no, Thorin.”
“Mom! Drop it. Where’s Dad? Talk to him, instead,” her budding irritation grew stronger but she can’t let her mom’s petty question get into her nerves.
“Okay, Tiger!” Elle laughs at her daughter, which made Thorin clenched her jaw as she furiously types in a sentence. “He’s still with the mountain club.”
The tapping of her mother’s newly polished nails against the counter. Thorin looks up at her as she casually sips her orange juice from her glass. Elle gave her a quick smirk, Thorin inwardly whined. “What is it, Mom?”
“Aren’t you going to introduce him to us?”
Thorin felt a sudden panic and nervousness. She wanted to scream at her and emphasize that she’s just been dating him for a month. Why would she introduce Lucas to her family? “Why?”
Elle snickered, as she stares at her daughter. Unable to believe what she just heard from Thorin. “Because he’s your boyfriend, tiger! We would like to meet him at some point.”
“Some point,” Thorin find the right words to say, but she couldn’t. “But-- not. No--now!” She doesn’t know why she is reluctant. She just doesn’t want to rush things with him yet. And meeting her parents meant, rushing and diving into a more level up and serious relationship.
“What’s his name?”
“Familiar. The Sullivan doctors here?” Thorin shrugged at her mother as she continues to type in the last word and hit send. “What does he do then?”
“Is this really important?”
“Maybe. Does he earn more than you?”
“Mom! Can you stop?! I earn more than him. He’s my executive assistant. No, his family doesn’t own any colossal business nor have any political influence!” Thorin’s high-pitched voice boomed against the walls of the kitchen. Her outburst shook Elle that she couldn’t help but bit her lip, trying not to let out a few laughs.
Thorin felt her face hotter as she tries so hard to control her temper. “And I don’t care because he makes me happy! Can you respect that?”
“Of course. Just don’t ruin your own happiness.”
She gasps indecorously at her mom, why would she ruin her own happiness? She has never been this happy before why would she ruin it. Elle stood up and pick up her glass, she padded to the sink and place it as she said, “You never use the thing inside your chest. You think with your head.”
As she walks past through Thorin, Elle stopped with a tight-lipped smile, “Our head kills our own happiness, Tiger.”
“Can I have an answer now?” Troy prompt as he takes a sit on Lucas’s desk. Lucas inwardly whined, he shook his head at the presence of Troy. “You’re here again,” he said curtly as he rearranges and edited his boss’s another pile of scheduled work.
“Do you have any idea how I--”
“I don’t,” Lucas immediately replying, blocking Troy’s favorite sentence. Which he keeps on repeating over and over again. Troy has been bugging him since this morning. He made sure that he’ll annoy Lucas every after two hours. Just to make him say yes to his proposition.
“Come on, Lucas! You’re missing a big opportunity here!” Troy knocked two times on the desk.
Lucas stood up as he pulled out a folder from a divider. Before he took a seat, furrowing his brows, “I don’t see it as an opportunity, Mr. Montréal.”
Troy rose up and face Lucas, pointing him, “Hah! You didn’t see it because you didn’t think it through enough.”
Lucas shook his head at Troy. What’s the point of having this conversation again, if Troy’s just going to push him to think over it again. He did. But Lucas didn’t want it. He didn’t need it in the first place. He just wants peace and he’s contented where he is now. Sure, it somehow bored him now because there’s no competition in this position. He hardly stresses over it and does his work smoothly.
He just did not want the job Troy’s offering him because Lucas didn’t work hard enough to be in that position. He felt like it was just handed to him and he doesn’t want that, ever. He wanted to sweat and stress over a job and get a promotion because he put a lot of effort into it. Not like this.
A sudden conclusion popped, Lucas stood up facing Troy with a placid face, “Are you just doing this because I don’t have the right background for your sister?” Lucas air quoting as he said background. Troy tried to hide his shock but failed to do so.
Hiding his guiltiness, Troy faked a cough and look away from Lucas. Lucas looked up, restraining his growing irritation. Pressing his lips together, Troy clearly insinuating that Lucas’s conclusion is true by the look on his face. “That was the first goal. Then, putting that MBA into good use. But honestly? There’s really nothing to do about your background because of you--”
“Are you are kidding Montréal?!” Lucas’s dead voice speaks volumes, unperturbed by some curious employees around them. Troy must have been conscious of the employee around them, he turns his back on Lucas and shot a look at his employees to scram.
Lucas clenched his jaw as he straightens his spine and gazes down at Troy who is few inches shorter. Lucas cut the imaginary boundary between an employee and an employer. After all, Troy did it first. “Look, man. Okay, I’m wrong. I’m sorry. The last thing I want is to die from knowing the truth over some trivial matter.”
“You decided to be a sleuth and dig up some dirt, Montréal!”
“Fucking hell Lucas! Okay, I get it. You said, no. Whatever! Fine,” Troy ruffled his own hair from frustration. With a serious face, popping out an index finger, “Quick tip, tell my sister about your identity or else she would know about it from someone. And that’s not good.”
“What’s there to tell? What’s so big deal about this issue?!” Lucas hissed, tilting his head as he places his hands on his hips.
“Well, I don’t know prince charming.” Troy shrugged, with one last final look he steps back and walks out.
“Any objections? I’ll set it on the same day of Thanksgiving,” Thorin straightened her spine and rest both of her elbows on the armrest of her chair. Surveying her old friends from high school, who happens to be the appointed member of their alumni committee.
Some shake their heads, some approve by raising their thumbs up. Thorin notices the former cheer captain in their high school. “Ria, any objections?”
They have always had this mutual rivalry between them, who’s the prettiest, who’s the smartest and most popular. Apparently, Thorin took it all. She’s just not the prom queen though and she’s not that flexible to do backflips and splits in front of the whole sports team that existed. Ria gave her a tight-lipped smile, “None, Thorin. Stop being a bitch.”
Thorin laughs at her for being childish. She exaggeratedly waves a hand and shrugs. “I’ll appoint two persons to settle the catering. Ria and Lucy. Physical set up, Shannon and Peter.” Thorin gazes at each of the committees in their rectangular table inside a secluded room in one of the famous pub of their town. At four in the afternoon, the sun is it its golden color that makes everything silhouetted and forgotten. The committee continued on discussing the event, down to general into specifics, every detail were thoroughly discussed by them. Fifteen souls lined around the table, and she glances to her left. “Did you jot it down, Rey?”
Thorin heard him whined, “It’s Raul.” She raises her brows as she picked up her cup of coffee but stopped mid-air, “It’s the same.” She said and took a sip on her coffee.
Once the main agenda was settled, the table was buzzing as each one chatted and catch up with one another. Some of them never really left their town and some came back after college to make a living. Thorin never really knew them, except the fact they were in few classes together, some were the member of the student council and was in honors society.
Sure, she had friends during her formative years but it was a superficial relationship between them. She had parties in her house and invite over some friends and acquaintances but she never really put an effort to know her circle of friends.
“Hi! I’m so sorry. I got caught up by Dr. Sullivan there!” The former secretary of the student council, clad in her shrubs and trousers entered the room with a smile. The surname perked up her interest, so she fished out her phone from her Celine bag and sent a text message to her boyfriend for no specific reason. Or maybe just to annoy him. Or maybe remind him that his girlfriend exists.
“Sullivan? The vet, physician or the psychologist?” Ria inquired in her high pitched squeaky voice which made Thorin cringe.
“Hey, Thorin!” Thorin nodded in recognition, as she greeted “Aly.”
Aly pulling out the empty chair and settled herself beside Thorin. The catching up continued on as each talk about their high school memories, life after high school, married life and the in-betweens. Thorin only attentively listened and laugh when it is needed.
“Oh, I brought our yearbook!” A member stood up, waving the yearbook in hand. “I almost forgot! We actually have to email invites to our batch.” Raul pointed out.
Everyone was laughing at their old pictures. They even have their stories behind it. Thorin gazed at the yearbook and made a mental note that she ought to open it later.
“Let me see my Italian ex!” Ria hollered almost tipsy after two shots of margaritas. “You had one date. He’s not your ex, Ria,” Aly stated in a matter of fact. The ton laughs at Ria’s dismay.
“God, he was perfect. Too bad he didn’t like how dumb I sounded,” Ria took a swig, as laughter erupted. Thorin shook her head and smirk at what she is witnessing.
“He was. He’s the only gentleman out of jerks when we were in high school!” Cassie gushed at the mystery man of the moment. Aly gasp as she stood up and pointed at their friend, “Oh right! You dated for like a month.”
Ria finally got a hold of the yearbook, flipping through pages like a deranged woman. Aly laughed indecorously, “You guys move on!”
“Why? He’s married already?!”
“Of course not. I actually saw him months ago, visited his uncle’s clinic. Fuck he was hot.”
“It seems like you worship him? Is he like the quarterback of the football team? And aren’t you like married already?”
“No. Just the vice of the soccer team and president of the camera club,” Thorin felt her forehead creases as she gazes at Cassie. As Cassie continued to stare and read at a page of the yearbook. Her description is somewhat vaguely familiar to Thorin.
“Not really. We’re just you know, relieving our teenage feelings for a moment,” Ria seconded as she straightened her spine and sat properly on her chair.
“Are girls talking about Lucas?” Peter interjected. Peter was a former member of the soccer team way back, so he must have known this Lucas. Lucas? Thorin put up twos and two together.
Her mother is from the same town as Thorin. The obvious possibility is that Lucas is to, and had gone to the same school since there were only a few school district there. Sullivan doctors, of course, Ria mentioned a psychologist!
“The one and only--”
“Can I take a look at his photo, please?” Thorin felt cold, like a bucket of ice cold water poured on her, sipping through her dress. Cassie hand it down to her, the page was open for Thorin to see. She freezes as she stared at a much younger and familiar guy.
Feeling foreign as she surveyed his soft olive skin, amber orbs, and black locks. His soft smile towards the camera was enigmatic and mysterious. There was also a photo of him holding a camera towards the photographer of the photo as if he was laughing at something. There was also a picture of him kicking the ball, focused and stilled as the time stopped as the photographer capture the momentum.
He wasn’t wearing any glasses, proof that his eyes were fine back then. Her hands were shaking as she traces the shape of his face on the glossy paper.
“Move on, would you? He has set his eyes on Thorin for years. I don’t know now though,” Peter shrugs as he pops up a grape inside his mouth. Every word felt like a sack of cement piled on top of Thorin’s head.
Thorin said breathlessly, unable to fully process the new information. “Lucas Giovanni Sullivan Veserati.”
“Aristocratic name for an aristocratic brat,” Ria snickers at her own pun. Cassie nodded, “Yeah, he’s Italian family side is part in the higher affluent circle.”
All Thorin could do is lean back for being a fool. She never knows him as she thought so. And here she is listening to his ex, spilling the tea in front of her. She wanted to flip this table, strangle someone right now. Thorin felt a strong jealously she never ever thought of feeling before. “Apparently, each member have a title? I think Lucas is an Earl or Duke? I forgot,” Cassie added.
Thorin rose up from her seat, trying to compose herself from the surge of information, “You guys have my number. Call me or email me directly. I have to go.”
Thorin lay in her bed as she lifted up her laptop above her and read the article again, “Empire. Multinational banking group company in the world. Now the largest bank in Italy.”
Her phone buzzed for the nth time of the night, glancing at it frowning. Thorin hoped that it would stop sooner, indeed the buzzing and flickering of her phone stopped. She rode up and seated, crossed legged placing the laptop on her lap. Clicking the second tab, she continues to trace down the House of Medici.
“Fucking titles” Thorin hissed. Its great family tree origin was nauseating so she stops reading it. Google search is not that credible anyway.
Sighing she glanced back at her phone. Regretting what she hoped for, notifications had stopped coming. Shutting down her laptop, setting it aside, she picked up her phone and checked her notification. It’s all from Lucas, his last text message was I miss you. Night, love.
There was a tugging in her chest like her heartstrings were pulled mercilessly. She needs to act rationally at a times like this, not leave someone hanging at the end of the cliff. However, she felt betrayed and cheated on by him. How could he let her on, and pretend or even act like they were strangers?
He deliberately did that. She can’t help but be disappointed with him. Did she think she somehow knew Lucas but knowing things today? She didn’t think so anymore.
Peter’s words rang through her thoughts again. He has his eyes for her. Does he exist around their high school? Obviously. The thought of Lucas vying his attention secretly for her, feared her and scared her. He could be a stalker after all. No wonder he knows what she likes, down to every detail! No wonder she felt like he knew her, not because it’s expected from him but he knew from the beginning.
Thorin looks around her well-lighted room, checking for a possible camera or whatever. Shaking her head, “That can’t be possible. No!”
Closing her eyes as she meditated, channeling her thoughts on her breathing. She needed to think this through. She needed confirmation coming from him personally, from his words. Pressing two in her speed dial, she heard two rings from the other side.
Pressing the loudspeaker on as Lucas answered it, “Hey, love. Did you already have your dinner?”
“Yes. What do you expect? It’s already ten, I can’t let myself starve,” she did not expect her sardonic remarks. It was awful and she didn’t like the fact that it actually came out from her mouth.
Lucas’s line grew quiet. She could hear imaginary crickets, she knows he’s probably frowning at his phone right now. “How was your day? I’m guessing it’s a bad one.”
“Fine and disappointing,” Thorin retorted curtly.
She heard his sigh, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Thorin inwardly groaned. Why couldn’t she hold a proper and direct conversation with him? She should be straightforward with him with her thoughts but she couldn’t deliver it. “Did I do something that upsets you? Is it a bad time? I’m being clingy aren’t I?”
Mentally forming rational and right words while keeping her emotions in check. She drops the words icily, “We need to talk. You know what? Forget it. Bye.”